Yesterday, for the sixth successive year, Bristol held its “World Naked Bike Ride”. I am not quite sure of the relevance of the word “world” in the title of the event, but you do not need to be a rocket scientist to work out what was going on.
A few years ago, I might have been tempted to go along for all the wrong reasons, the main one being to ogle at naked women, but this time it held no attraction. It was not the prospect of accidentally witnessing a male anus, as the rider stood up to increase speed, or mere the endless display of naked male torsos, the penis part thereof in particular, that put me off. I just had better things to do and yesterday anything was something better to do.
Thousands did line the streets although it is not clear whether they had come into town specifically to view naked cyclists or if they watched as a welcome break from shuffling round Bristol’s modern shopping experience. Personally, I regard the prospect of an afternoon in Cabot Circus as equally unappealing as watching naked people on bicycles.
The organisers describe the event as “an annual celebration of bikes, body power and low-carbon living” which on the face of it sounds fair enough, but why the need to do it naked? One look in the mirror these days would be more than sufficient to dissuade me from participating, but having had the misfortune to see some photographs in the media I can see that many people did not have the same inhibitions as me, even though they probably should have.
Missing from the reports were details of the mass arrests which, I assume, must have followed the cycle ride. After all, whilst the press reports were light-hearted and uncritical, there must have been some aspects of the law which were breached. Personally, I do not have an issue with nudity, public or otherwise, although there must be situations where it would probably be better avoided and prevented, particularly when sex raises its head, but the courts do not look on it as fondly, as “The Naked Rambler” Stephen Gough has found.
Gough has spent most of the last eight years in prison because he refuses to wear any clothes in any circumstances. This included being in court recently. In effect, Gough has a life sentence, certainly a more severe sentence than anyone who commits virtually any crime you can think of. He will spend more time behind bars than perverts like Rolf Harris and Gary Glitter. And he’s a bit of a one off. I am not aware there are large groups of people who want to roam the country without clothes. He doesn’t really do any harm, he appears to be a great British eccentric. And his crime of wanting to be naked is hardly murder or child molestation.
I wonder what would have happened in Bristol yesterday if Gough was not in prison, but cycling through the city? Given what’s happened before, he’d have probably been picked out and sent to the cells again. Or would he have been left to it like Bristol’s other cycling exhibitionists?
It seems there is one law for one type of nudity, cycling, and one for another type of nudity, walking. I wouldn’t want to ban either and surely in this so-called tolerant world we can find some kind of accommodation for people like Gough as we have for the cyclists. There are many more people I would prefer to see in prison than Gough.